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Unlocking Hidden Tax Savings Through Real Estate Tax Abatements

Benjamin Franklin stated, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But that doesn’t mean that the taxes levied can’t be challenged.

It is a common misconception that tax abatements are only available when new structures are being built. In fact, owners and users of existing properties, such as offices, warehouses, retail shopping outlets, hotels, nursing homes and multi-family residential units, also have the opportunity to achieve substantial tax refunds or savings through the abatement process. Similar opportunities exist for the reduction of personal property taxes levied upon equipment and other items used in operating businesses and real estate. Many people also do not realize that real estate tax abatements can be achieved by tenants who pay more than one-half of the annual tax levy.

Tax abatements apply to properties that are:

  • overvalued;
  • unequally assessed as compared with similar properties;
  • misclassified; or
  • partially or fully exempt.


These matters are time sensitive, and filing deadlines are strict. Massachusetts communities that issue quarterly real estate tax bills are now finalizing fiscal 2020 invoices, which are scheduled to be sent to property owners in December. Most municipalities that operate on a semi-annual basis have already issued tax bills.

The deadline to file an abatement petition in Massachusetts communities issuing tax bills quarterly is February 1, so it is important for commercial property owners and managers to scrutinize their property tax bills as soon as possible to determine if there are opportunities to lower their tax payments or receive a refund. A proactive review of your real estate tax assessment just might uncover an unexpected savings.

In 2018, Davis Malm achieved reductions in assessments for 93 properties owned, leased and/or operated by our clients, resulting in real estate valuation reductions of nearly $151 million and saving clients over $3 million.